Wemoto Artist Series with
Born and raised around Nuremberg, Stephan’s work is based on very colorful and lively vector artworks. The mostly positive-looking graphics, some of which have cartoonish traits, always make you smile and cause you not to take life too seriously. In addition to his free projects, which can also be a well made animation, he works full-time as a designer for Adidas and is a gifted skateboarder. After we have been in contact from time to time for several years, we are all the happier that it finally worked out with this great collaboration. Curtain up for Stephan Poehlmann.
For those that don’t know, what and who is Stephan Poehlmann?
You grew up in Feucht, a village near Nuremberg, Germany. What was it like growing up there and to what extent did it influence your artistic work?
Pretty chilled I would say. It‘s a small town but you got some nice things around. You got a lake, a pool, a skatepark and Nürnberg is also just 10min away with the train. Art class was always my favorite subject in school. As i‘m hyperactive it was really hard for me to focus on other subjects like german or maths but art class was something that didn‘t feel like all the other subjects. I think my older brother got me in to drawing. He was super in to anime back in the days, Akira, Ranma and so on. He painted his whole room full with anime characters and landscapes. So thats something I picked up a few years later when in got in to Dragon Ball Z. Every time we went on holiday I bought two books at the airport and after a while I started drawing characters from there. After that period I drew some more darker stuff, as my brother was into metal I got into it too. That also influenced my drawings at that time. In particular the Maidon covers I found quit cool. I remember my mom was worried about my mental health when she saw my drawings hahaha but as far as I remember it was a mix of childish looking drawings paired with violence haha. My dad probably still has some of the drawings.
Some time ago you moved to to the city of Nuremberg. A city where you practically grew up. Why not Munich or Berlin?
I think it was a matter of circumstances. Berlin I liked for skating but not for a living. I always found it too busy. Munich I hated back in the days. There was always such a weird vibe when we skated the Schwanthaler, but as soon as I got to know Fabi, Leo and Pauli it became so sick + my brother moved there too. Now I really love it. My favorite choice should have been Hamburg actually. That’s the city I spent the most time when I was younger. As soon as I got on Morphium skateboards, that must have been when I was around 14 /15 years old, they invited me to come to Hamburg for a team session. Since then I spent almost every holiday there. I used to crash at Niklas Speers and his brother place every time, sometimes up to 2 month. He became one of my best friends and favorite skaters too haha. Because my degree (NC) wasn’t really good I haven’t had that much of a choice where to study and Hamburg was not working out for me. So I ended up in Coburg which was also really nice, because it was also not too expensive and also not too far away from my parents and it had a little skate hall. I still did the Hamburg trips during my semester holidays but never moved there at the end. I still regret it. Big shout out to the Hamburg crew, they treated my very well.
You're still an active skateboarder and you've recently had an impressive part in the HR Dept. "Get in where you fit in" video. What does skateboarding mean to you and what influence does it have on your creative work?
Skateboarding is the fucking best. Without skateboarding I wouldn‘t be where I am today. Due to skateboarding I was able to connect with a lot of nice people and made life time friends. The HR Crew is def. the most solide crew out there. Thanks @leopreisiger for bringing us all together. Also a big s/o to the Eichel Gang from NBG my local skate crew. I think it’s pretty easy to be creative when you are with you friends. The inside jokes you make, basically the whole stuff you experience together makes it pretty easy to be creative. After every trip I have so many good ideas for drawings, animations and what not.
You are currently working as a designer at Adidas. How did you get into it and what does a working day as a creative at such a big brand look like?
I reached the 5th semester at my design study so it was time for my internship. It was a friend I knew from the skateshop back in the days who was already working for adidas. I think we met somewhere and I was talking about my studies and the upcoming internship. A couple of days later he hit me up and told me he might have something for me. At that time they had a hiring freeze, so they didn’t take any interns but they took freelancer. I signed up as an intern by an agency who is managing freelancer and then the originals department booked me. So I did an internship as a freelancer haha. That’s how I got in. After my internship was done they offered me a full-time contract which I took as I already had a degree in business administration so I wasn’t too worried about finishing the design one. The learning curve was pretty strong. So many concept, accounts, markets and timelines you need to work with. It took a while to get used to all this stuff and in particular the speed of working is pretty heavy. A normal working day is basically a bunch of meetings, e-mails and concept work, where the concept work often gets neglected as you have to deal with a lot of other stuff in between. It’s a whole different world when you come fresh from your study where you have a lot of time to work on one single project and all of a sudden you have to manage a bunch of different projects at the same time under different time lines. But you get used to it and learn how to come up with quick solutions. It’s still fun.
„Sometimes it’s just my daily routine where I found inspiration, sometimes it’s when I’m on a hike or with my homies on a skate trip and other times it’s something someone says in coffee, restaurant or on the streets“
You also design a small brand called "Escape". Can you tell us something about the brand and what you do?
It‘s something I started at the beginning of my studies. I actually wanted to film 1 minute clips with skaters from around town but soon in became an outlet for all my creative stuff in general. It’s called „Escape the daily grind“ because it supposed to be a space where I can do what ever I want without following any restrictions where in a job / or study you always tight to some kind of rules. Escape is just for fun but it’s on and off since I started it as I only do stuff when I have the time which was not a lot recently. I basically do everything by myself. The filming, the editing, animation and graphics. It is a nice outlet to the normal work. But some new stuff is in the making. Thanks to everyone who supported it so far, that means a lot.
When it comes to art, how do you kick-start the creative process? How do you approach a project?
Usually I never force it. All my art projects are more or less based on thoughts or impressions I hade on the road. I usually write them down and when I have time I start working on it. Mostly I start with brainstorming and write down everything that comes to my mind regarding a particular topic. Then I go over and over it again until I come to a good start. Brainstorming is the A und O to kick of a concept for me. Then I usually leave it for a day or sometimes even longer, depending on the other stuff I have to do, but I would say the next big step is sport. For me that’s always the time where I reflect my thoughts, projects and start finalizing the ideas.
How and where do you find inspiration and are there any artistic heroes that have influenced you in your work?
I would say as I’m quite active there are so many ways for me to get inspired in different ways. Sometimes it’s just my daily routine where I found inspiration, sometimes it’s when I’m on a hike or with my homies on a skate trip and other times it’s something someone says in coffee, restaurant or on the streets. The most important thing for me is to make notes of the feelings, impressions I make along the way. Usually I put it in my phone or sometimes I have a sketch book with me. Regarding my heroes, I have to say Benny Gold def. is someone I look up to for a long time already. First I got really into his design language but after also in to the story behind it which I found really cool. Also the way he managed the shop and so on. Really inspiring. Another one is French (Richard Sayer) he is a super sick illustrator and I really like his style and he also pushed me to do more stuff and gave me the opportunity to have my own exhibition at his little gallery 101, back when he used to live in NBG. That was nice experience, really appreciate it. Then of course Stefan Marx, I’m a big fan of his illustrations and he was also the first touch point with the art scene for me I would say. He was the first Illustrator I met back in Hamburg when I was 15.
Music has always played a big role for us. Is music also important to your creative process? If so, what records are you listening to at the moment?
Yes for sure. I‘m listening to music almost the whole day. I really like digging through artists, finding out about there labels and how they are connected and so on. What I really like about music is that it puts you in mood, or supports a mood you are already in which also effects your work. The best thing is when I dig through music and all over sudden I get really hyped about the track I’m listening to and already start to envision a concept to it. For me moste of the time I envision a skate clip to it and then how the typo, animation looks like and then how the merch could look like as well, so one thing leads to another. I have a bunch of different playlist with songs I got hyped on saved for some skate clips in the future which will probably never come out hahah. I’m listening to the Mattson 2 alto. They are also out there for a while now but it took me a bit to get into it. They are more or less in my daily routine for a couple of years now. Also super excited about the solo album which is about to come out of Jared Mattson. They are releasing there stuff on toro y mois label (company records) which is also super nice. The whole artist network they have is quite interesting and it’s good to see how they all collaborate together. Worth a listen.
Thank you for your time, Stephan!